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January 30, 2012

Sanuk Donny Primo Shoe Review

"Being down in the open air -
Living life like we just don't care -
Just doing what we want to do -
Not doing what we're supposed to do -
It's gonna be a lovely day ... "

- Donavon Frankenreiter, "Lovely Day" (video after post)

Many parenting couples have a dynamic that goes something like this: one parent is the responsible one, who keeps things in line and sees that things get done when they’re supposed to. The other is more of a free spirit, equal parts playful and forgetful, who tries to keep day to day life from being mundane or predictable.

(Before you ask … yes, my own relationship is like this, and the intro quote should be all the evidence you need to guess which role I play.)

In an ideal world, the children of these couples acquire a nice combination of their parents’ personalities; they know how to mind their manners when it’s expected, but they’re able to cut loose and have a good time when the occasion presents itself.

Sanuk Donny Primo

What does any of this have to do with shoes? Think of Sanuk’s Donny Primo as the offspring of exactly the same parenting arrangement. The responsible one is Sanuk’s Boardroom, a super comfy and lightweight leather “sidewalk surfer” (to use Sanuk’s term) with a leather upper that’s stylish enough to pass muster in all but the most formal office settings. The free spirit is Sanuk’s flagship Donny, made for surfer / chill musician Donavon Frankenreiter, which has a laid-back beach vibe from top to bottom. Mama brings home the paycheck, and daddy blows it building a half-pipe in the backyard – or something like that.

Donny Primo on left, original Donny on right

Hybrid construction is most apparent in the Donny Primo uppers, which are made from stylish suede, but retain a bit of the artistic surfer flair. There’s a thin canvas lining that makes the uppers fairly comfortable against bare skin, and also adds a bit of insulation. Temperature regulation for the Donny Primo falls in the middle of the parental spectrum, as the suede uppers are less breathable and more insulating than the thin canvas Donnys, but more breathable and less insulating than the leather Boardroom.

Like all Sanuk sidewalk surfers, the midsole of the Donny Primo is a soft EVA with a standing height of approximately 15mm in the heel and 10mm in the forefoot. The bottom of your foot feels like it’s wearing a flip-flop, while the top of it is ready to go to a nice restaurant.

Elastic stretch panels on either side of the vamp (panel on top of the foot) make getting the Donny Primo on and off nearly as easy as slipping into a pair of thong sandals as well.

The midsole height is higher and has more heel-to-toe drop than I typically like in everyday shoes, but I’ve found that there’s significant settling of the midsole material after extended use, so that after a couple of months the functional position of your foot is much flatter and closer to the ground than when you first try them on.

Considering how much hype the natural footwear movement has generated over the past year, I’m actually kind of disappointed that Sanuk hasn’t become a bigger player in this category. The Donny Primo is completely flexible, very lightweight at just under 7oz, and wide enough through the forefoot to allow your toes to spread out and function almost as if they were shoeless.

Really, the only drawback I have about the Donny Primo is outsole traction, although you can’t really blame it, since neither of its parents have outstanding traction either. The Happy U grid is fine for dry conditions, but if it’s wet outside or if you’re on any sort of loose dirt or gravel, the traction can certainly be a bit lacking. I’d love to see Sanuk experiment with a slightly more grooved outsole or a grippier rubber compound, which shouldn’t detract too much from the beach sandal ground feel.

Overall, the Donny Primo is a shoe that should make its Mom and Dad proud: it maintains the mellow and fun feel of the Donny, with the class and dressiness of the Boardroom. It’s not currently available on the Sanuk website, but it retails for $60 from Amazon.com.

Finally, a song by the shoe's namesake certainly seems in order ... but if you're stuck someplace that gets real winter weather, my apologies for this song; it's one of those that makes me want to do nothing more than head to the beach and watch the waves roll in. If you don't happen to live in California or someplace similar, this might make summer seem very far away.

Donavon Frankenreiter, "Lovely Day" (click to play):

*Product provided by Sanuk
**See other product reviews on sidebar at right. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at info@runningandrambling.com.

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Ftprntz 1/31/12, 6:26 AM  

I love Sanuks! My whole family wears them, including my kids. My 6 year old daughter even went for a walk in the snow with them on yesterday. (Of course it was 45 degrees in Wisconsin in January, but that's another story.) Sarah

ajones 1/31/12, 7:23 AM  

Sanuks are great, but I must echo the lack of traction. Darn near killed my knees trying to walk across newly fallen snow in them. Every step I slipped.

Sara 2/1/12, 7:06 AM  

Awesome review - I had never seen these before! Thank you!

watch for running 2/3/12, 8:23 PM  

At first I really don't like SANUKs, really because of its big face style made me realize do they think we have this huge foot?! not when I saw/bought the new girly style and realize it feels good wearing it. I love them now.

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